Phi Beta Kappa Members Announced

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By Caroline Jaschke

On Saturday, Oct. 25, ten seniors were inducted into The College’s official chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. Phi Beta Kappa is the nation’s oldest honor society, and it recognizes students for extraordinary academic achievement. Middlebury’s chapter of Phi Beta Kappa was founded in 1868, making it the 13th oldest chapter in existence.

Seniors Taylor Custer, Leah Fessler, Jamie Lee, Kevin Liang, Xiner Liu, Michael Martini, Kristen Meredith, Katie Paradies, Kyle Slugg, and Danny Zhang were the first in their class to be inducted. The 10 inductees represent the top 2% of their graduating class.

Each inductee has a GPA above 3.9 and was selected by a board consisting of Middlebury faculty members who were themselves inducted into Phi Beta Kappa during their own college careers. 61 professors currently make up this selection board.

Members of the selection committee indicated that when choosing the inductees, GPA is considered foremost, but  they also take into account other factors. For example, no one who is inducted can have an academic infraction on his or her record.

Professor Don Wyatt, a Phi Beta Kappa member, shared some of the other qualities the selection board looks for. “We’re greatly interested in students who have, of their own volition, taken the initiative to spread themselves across the curriculum. We’re interested in the breadth of our candidates for induction,” he said.

Only about 1% of students nationwide are inducted into the society. Fessler commented on this honor saying, “I was really proud to have all of the energy I’ve expended here towards academics recognized. I’ve never thought of myself as the top tier academically, and still don’t, but it’s an honor to be part of such a historically impressive society.”

Fessler emphasized the importance of a balanced lifestyle, developing relationships with professors, and including something creative in your schedule. Liang recommended getting lots of sleep, using office hours, making friends in your major, going out of your way to research something related to your major, and of course, studying a lot.

Meredith’s advice focused on not having any regrets. “I’m glad that I took the classes that I wanted to take and that I didn’t shy away from the classes or professors that people warn you against,” she said.

Looking down the road and into the future for these inductees, I asked Professor Wyatt how Phi Beta Kappa has affected his life since his induction. He said, “It has opened my mind to the possibilities of what I can accomplish as a professor and as a scholar. It has led me to believe that I can achieve more in those areas than I perhaps initially imagined.”

The inductees are only six months away from graduation and taking on the new challenges of jobs and graduate school. Moving forward, Liang says, “I’ll be proud of myself for now but not let it define me. I need to keep doing the work that I did to get here.”